The songs on guitarist David Howard’s new album “Next” can be taken as an invitation to think of better days that are just ahead of us. Whether pointed social commentary or not, the music is enjoyable, embraceable and light-hearted and requires no effort to experience. Characterized by a light and easy groove is “Something’s Got to Give” which contrasts nicely with the twangy, hard-edged funk of “The Real Feel”. The bossa flavor of “Your Smile,” delightful interplay between guitar and sax in “No Boundaries” and lightly stirring beat of “Lonesome Lockdown” reveal different emotions that all have something to say. If this is what’s “Next” then bring it on, we’re all ready.
What inspired “Next”?
My idea was to convey a moving-on theme. There are four tunes (“Lawns,” “Something’s Got to Give,” “The Real Feel” and “Hard Facts”) that my band The Dave Howard Initiative performed live in a church hall. Michael Johnson (bassist, vocalist, engineer, co-producer) did a cool job recording and editing most of the tracks. There were more tunes recorded but we decided on using only these because they were my new compositions, with a cover of Carla Bley’s “Lawns.” I love Carla’s writing.
What has it been like to produce a CD during COVID and how does it affect your marketing strategy?
Different during COVID. I’m so used to a live vibe in the production process. Most of the music on this recording was played live at gigs before recording so I had a good idea of what I was looking for. I have a home studio so I was able work and collaborate with Michael, Paul and the other featured musicians via the internet.
There is a disconnected feeling for me that became easier as the lockdown continued. Getting tracks and taking care of various aspects of the production takes time when you are working back and forth with files and sessions via email.
As far as marketing it has become a continuous learning curve; a creative experience. I have always performed live and without that experience and connecting with the audience everything has changed. I have been working on several new ideas: making my music available as much as possible on social media and my website; keeping my mailing list current and trying to find out who and where my fans are; keeping in touch with fans while trying to meet and make new fans.
I try to send my music to press, magazines, blogs and playlists, and I’m working on a new merchandising idea (tee shirts, etc.) that will be introduced soon. I’ve worked several years with a great promoter, Keith Gilchrist at Jazzman Music Marketing and Promotions Worldwide, who handles most of my social media and other marketing.
What was the most fun track to do?
I enjoyed all the aspects of every tune because they are all different. “Lonesome Lockdown” was fun and interesting because it was all performed by me and written and recorded in one session. It also has a video.
What was the most difficult?
“No Boundaries.” I had such a particular vibe idea in my head that I was shooting for and had a hard time making sure I got what I was hearing. Two amazing featured guests on the tune, Brendan Rothwell on bass and Audley Reid on sax, worked via email sessions and it was interesting trying to get a live feel. I think it all worked out well. Let’s see what the audience thinks??
How did you meet the other musicians and what do they bring to your vibe?
The Dave Howard Initiative band has been playing together for several years in various combinations of quartet, trio and duo with several added guests like Roseann Sureda (vocalist) and various sax, vibes and trumpet players. I wrote “ No Boundaries” with Brendan and Audley in mind and the vibe is definitely there and what I was hearing.
Roseann was very cool and ran all edits by me. I love her lyrics and vocals. Tracks were passed around and mixed and mastered by Scott Petito in NY.
Brendan, Audley and I met through Keith Gilchrist. The music was sent out for discussion beforehand. I didn’t want to give either of them too much to go on, so they would be free to add to the live-feel vibe of the recording. Brendan’s bass playing has its own texture which is different from the conventional bassist’s foundation. Audley’s sound fit great. During the past several years in Europe I have written for and used several saxophonists, so I was looking forward to it.
How does this CD differ from “Infinite Blu” and other projects?
My past music was always performed for some time before the recordings to see if the tunes would fly before being recorded.
Why did you choose guitar and how would you describe the discipline of learning jazz guitar?
Guitar came after piano and an interest in the trumpet. I love all instruments; the texture of each one makes me feel like writing for that instrument, even with the MIDI. My parents were great and had me with guitar teachers early on. My dad played piano, not professionally, but it was always heard around the house. Practicing was something I got to enjoy at a young age when I learned I could play with other musicians. I played with older players that I learned so much from. Age 15 was my first live paid gig.
I practice daily now as long as possible. I am always searching for new creative concepts.
Where do you go in your head when you compose?
I have tried and continue to try various things when I write, maybe because I’m a music professor and a schooled musician. I sometimes start with a form and style idea (e.g., AABA in a bossa style). Other times it’s from a chordal/harmony beginning or a melodic idea.
I have found that different life experiences or traveling to beautiful locations help spirit a melody or groove.
What tips would you give to a new musician who wants to learn how to compose?
Listen to all styles of music, not just to the style you are into. Study music theory, harmony, rhythms and styles with and without your instrument. Write or notate your ideas as much as you can…even short ideas. Don’t listen to critics or people who don’t understand. Do what you feel.
What are some of your favorite past collaborations?
Co-writing with Joe Parillo (pianist/composer) has always been fun, creative, and productive.
How has audience interest changed since we are in a streaming phase without live venues?
There are some innovative events going on. Recently, I was involved in the John Taylor Entertainment Group’s Tulsa Jazz Festival (virtual edition) that was very cool.
Being a musician who loves live gigs with a live audience, it has been tough to get into the streaming idea.
Do you have any performances lined up for 2021?
I’ve been asked lately about some outdoor duo and trio gigs. but the weather in the area has not been cooperating and we will see what goes on with COVID. I am looking forward to getting back to live gigs! Shows and festival in Europe too.
During the past 10 years I have spent the summer months off from teaching in Europe. I love the European vibe and have been talking to several festival producers and directors about 2021 dates. I have also been working with the John Taylor Entertainment Group that I hope may have some events when we are back to live gigs.
For more information visit https://www.davidhowardmusic.com.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.
(c) 2020 Debbie Burke